Many people coming to the Maine this summer are already seasoned pros at tackling the state’s most delicious dish, while others may be apprehensive about it. What’s it taste like? How do you get through the shell? What to avoid?

Fear not, lobster newbie—we’ve got all of those answers for you and more.

Always Buy From Maine

As fine dining chefs around the world will attest, Maine has the best tasting lobster hands down due to the Gulf of Maine’s cold, clean waters. While in our state, every self-respecting restaurant will source locally, but if you’re out of state, make sure that you find out from the server or grocery store first that the lobster they’re offering is officially branded “Maine Lobster” and not from Canada or anywhere else. The proof is in the sweet, delectable fresh taste.

Shell It Like It Is

First-timers might be wondering what the difference is between the taste of hard shell or soft shell, and native Mainers will definitely have an opinion on that. The fact is, the seasons determine what will be available. Soft shell lobster will be in season most of the summer. After that, lobsters continue their molting cycle, hardening up their shells in late fall. Here’s a guide to the taste difference between hard shell and soft shell.

The Tools

If you’re ordering Maine lobster the way it was meant to be eaten, steamed with a generous ramekin of butter, you’ll be provided a cracker (sort of like pliers) to crack the shell, along with a lobster fork (a spiked pick to work out the meat from the knuckles and walking legs) and a lot of napkins. This is not a knife and fork meal — use your hands. Pro-tip: don’t wear your finest clothes. You’re going to get messy.

Finally, The Technique

Like an Oreo cookie, everyone has a preference on how to start eating a lobster. Some go straight for the tail meat, as it will go cold the quickest. Some go for the claws and others work the sweet bits of meat from the walking legs. For first timers, we don’t recommend trying the roe (if it’s female, these are its eggs) or the tomalley (the greenish pancreas and liver). Here’s a video to show you how to eat a Maine lobster.

Come to the Maine Lobster Festival’s five-day event this summer and by the time you’re done, you’ll be eating lobster like a pro.